Ms. Scovell is of course right to point out both the hostile work environment and the discrimination against female writers. The fact that people like Barbara Walters leap to the defense of the show is disturbing but not surprising. Hollywood is leaping to the defense of a man who sodomized a 13 year old girl, why would Letterman’s friends not defend his show against charges of sexual harassment? Nor is the idea of sexual harassment in the media very surprising. We’ve all heard the stories both in and out of the media.
What is more interesting is Ms. Scovell’s analysis of why these writing rooms have for so long been all male clubs (apparently, according to her, white male, but that's a whole other discussion). “Male writers don’t want to be judged in the room. They want to be able to scarf an entire bag of potato chips while cracking fart jokes and making lewd comments without fear of feminine disapproval.” If you know anything about the law of sexual harassment and “hostile work environment” you know this actually has some validity. She makes the point “And while writers do need to feel comfortable in order to make comedy, denying an entire class of people certain opportunities in order to preserve a way of life seems a tad antebellum.”
True, but in the current litigation environment how do you allow cracking jokes of a lewd or sexual nature and maintain your immunity against lawsuits by those who might be offended? The writers room joke to exemplify the point might go “How may female writers does it take to screw in a light bulb?…..Answer – That’s not funny.” All of this has, of course to take in the totality of the circumstances and the context of the job. Men must have enough comfort with themselves as comedians and writers to make whatever damn joke they want to make no matter who’s in the room. At the same time, female writers, and the courts, will need to recognize that a writing room may be a little different than a typical conference room and a meeting that contains sexual inuendo and lewd jokes might be appropriate in the context.
The truth is demanding sexual favors for jobs, power and advancement is not permitted – end of story. The more nuanced aspects of hostile work environments and discrimination, however, need some real work or our late night entertainment might be made bland, like so much else in this world, by the fear of litigation.